Manny Pacquiao is not the feared opponent he once was, but the 35-year-old is still one of the best fighters in the business.
Pac-Man proved both of these facts in his victory over the previously undefeated Timothy Bradley this past Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The victory was a bit of redemption for Pacquiao after Bradley beat him in 2012 in a split-decision victory that most felt was handed to the wrong person.
Little room for a judging error was left this time around. The fight was close for the first six rounds, but Pacquiao dominated his opponent the rest of the way. He outboxed Bradley while Bradley went hunting for the knockout.
It was a bit of a role reversal for the two fighters.
Pacquiao made his legend as a feared puncher who had the power to knock out bigger opponents. He used this style to capture titles in an unprecedented eight different divisions. Pac-Man was never more dominant than he was in 2008-09.
This is when Pacquiao added a powerful right to his arsenal that equaled his always deadly left. His amazing run of brutal dominance began with a TKO over David Diaz in June of 2008 and concluded with his TKO victory over Miguel Cotto in late 2009. That spanned four fights, and Pacquiao stopped them all early.
He has not had a victory via stoppage since. The only fight in that span that didn't go the distance was when Juan Manuel Marquez sent Pacquiao to the canvas with a brutal knockout in 2012.
Although these results indicate a fighter with slipping power, they also show elite opponents. Let's just throw out his first loss to Bradley and say his only legitimate loss since the start of 2010 was the one to Marquez.
Pacquiao was fighting well in that fight until Marquez floored him, and no matter when those two have fought over the course of their careers, it's always been a close contest.
On Saturday, Pacquiao was nearly flawless. Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach, via Joaquin Henson of PhilStar.com, offered up this assessment of Pacquiao's effort: "Manny fought a smart fight. Eventually, Bradley slowed down either because he was tired or hurt or both. Manny was too fast for him."
Bradley spent much of the fight looking to go toe-to-toe with Pacquiao and land a knockout like Marquez did. There are times when Pacquiao would have welcomed this and ignored his opponent's attack while measuring him up for a teeth-rattling straight left that would end the fight.
Pacquiao simply doesn't have the same power he once did and has a much harder time ending a fight with one punch.
So the masterful champion has simply adjusted his style. He is using his speed to his advantage more than his power. When he sees openings, he is landing fruitful combinations. When the opportunities are not there, he is far more patient and looks to keep himself out of harm's way.
Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole passed along this quote from Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti on Pacquiao's recent performance: "He's still a top fighter pound-for-pound, and it's pretty clear the legs are still there, but obviously, you have to wonder where the punching power has gone."
You don't have to wonder. Pac-Man is 35 and has fought over 60 professional fights. His skills are going to diminish. In fact, if anything is worth wondering about, it is how he has maintained his speed.
With his amazing speed still in great form, Pacquiao has proven he can use this style to great effectiveness and that he is still one of boxing's elite.
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